Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Park bench, bus stop, and mindset in training jiu jitsu.

Dan John has a sort of parable that he uses when discussing physical preparation for sport. Training days can either be like sitting on a park bench, or at a bus stop (he says 'bus bench' but that sounds odd to me. So I am amending to bus stop.. same concept). When one sits at a bus stop one expects, nay demands, punctuality and measurable results. The bus should be here at 4:31 if it arrives at 4:36 it is an outrage! I want results on schedule so that I may move to the next level/bus stop/destination. Results must meet expectation or feelings get involved.
On the park bench, there is no expectation of 'on time.' You're there as long as you're there, and if you get the ducks fed, or see some nubile young things running by in tight clothes that aides in the experience, but the experience lasts for as long as it lasts.
We generally enjoy the park bench, and almost never enjoy the bus stop. 

There are two lessons jiu jitsu players can learn from this parable.
First, new players need to learn that training is the goal. That one can only be where one is, and no amount of wishing will make it otherwise. We are at a bus stop with no timetable, so you might as well enjoy the scenery. Jiu jitsu is a learned activity. It requires both feel and innovation. Neither of which can be hurried. So train and train and enjoy the training. Roll as if you are on a park bench, not fervently, impatiently awaiting a bus that may not turn up. That is to say, work your rolls. Follow your partners into the dark deep water where you're uncomfortable. Make the unfamiliar familiar. The Gracie brothers use the phrase "keep it playful." I think this is an oversimplification. It implies not to take the studious aspects of jiu jitsu seriously. It also implies that training 'hard' isn't playful. One of my most valued training partners and I go after each other. We do our best to break down each others strategies and test our abilities. He is the litmus test for my game, and to me that is the ultimate in "park bench" rolling. I see exactly where I am, and thoroughly get to know my current surroundings. However, it does not feel playful. I'm being tested, and with this gentleman in particular I fail the test to one degree or another (he outranks me and taps me nearly every time we roll). The model of a park bench is more complete.

The second way this parable works is one should have a few "bus stop rolls." Particularly with lower belts, one should go in with specific things to work on. I want to work xyz sweep, and only submit with this sequence. Then have the fortitude to stick to those constraints. If you are honest, you will get a result. The bus will be on time or not. If it is, great. Move on. If not, you now know where the weakness in that part of your game is, fix it. One should understand that this is an unnatural state. It isn't an indicator of where your game is or your value as a human. For that you take it back to your park bench. Where you roll and flow and be yourself. Keep in the moment and enjoy the place you're at.
Within jiu jitsu there is a third location: competition roll. That is only 'A' game stuff. Where you set yourself to only roll in your strong areas, and circumvent your weaknesses. These rolls should only be used for times before competition (when a teammate gets a new belt or similar 'wood shed' moments). If you're not competing then you should rarely find yourself in this mindset. It's stunting, you don't grow as fast if you're only rolling comfortably.


Tony Gentilcore goes into depth on how this applies in the gym.


SICP white belt said...

I just started training again this week, feels real good to be back. The bad news is that it's not at Ballard. A school opened up a couple blocks away from my job, so I can spend my lunch time there. Very practical, especially with another child on the horizon.
This time I made a pact with myself though, I am keeping the gatekeeper article as well as this one in the back of my mind. No more mindless training and squatting myself into submissions.
I am sure at some point in the middle distant future (say < 5 years) I 'll be able to swing by Ballard again, but until then I will follow vicariously through here.

J.B. said...

Sometimes you have to train where you be.
Email me and let me know where you're training and how that's all going.
Something to be said for hard work, but smart hard work always trumps dumb and difficult, or smart and easy.